Grantham puts more wins under his belt

North Thurston standout easily beats opponents to take 220-pound title at River Ridge Invitational

Contributing writerJanuary 26, 2014 

LACEY — Jake Grantham was a terror the past two high school wrestling seasons in the 195-pound weight division — claiming league and regional titles to go with a pair of placings at the state tournament.

The lone problem? Before the start of wrestling season, Grantham was walking around about 30 pounds heavier than his chosen weight classification.

“It was rough. I was cutting so much weight during the season,” Grantham said. “If I ever had a match go into the third round, I was done. I had no energy left, no strength at all.”

Standing 6-foot-3 and possessing a broad frame, Grantham was rapidly outgrowing the division. It was decided before his senior season at North Thurston that he would move up a weight class.

The move hasn’t kept him from piling up the wins.

Grantham improved to 26-1 this season by making short work of Sultan’s Taylor Comfort in the 220-pound final Saturday at the River Ridge Invitational.

Grantham, ranked second in Class 3A among the state’s 220-pound wrestlers, notched the victory in a speedy 54 seconds. He took a shade longer in dispatching his semifinal opponent, Manny Dorhoffer of Mount Rainier. He needed 59 seconds to do that.

“I feel so much healthier, so much happier at this weight,” said Grantham, who also earned Associated Press All-State honors as an offensive lineman in football. “I was able to maintain my speed and my strength at this weight. I just feel very comfortable on the mat now.”

The final’s introduction actually took longer than Grantham’s match. His opponent was no slouch, either, as Comfort, a 2013 state participant in 2A, entered the match 24-1.

Comfort’s appearance in the final helped Sultan take home the second-place trophy with 200.5 points.

Yelm won the overall team title with 212. Thomas Munoz was the Tornados’ lone individual champion, winning the 113-pound class with a 7-0 victory against Tony Pham of Renton.

Host River Ridge had three champions, tying Lindbergh, Renton and Sultan for the most among the 13 participating schools.

The Hawks received victories from Daniel Montesa (132 pounds), Elijah Camacho (160) and Vaughn Berg (182).

Camacho (13-2) posted arguably the strongest win of the tournament, defeating previously undefeated Conner Small of Liberty (Issaquah), 15-6. Small, a junior who has placed twice at the state tournament, had chalked up a gaudy 28-0 mark before the loss.

Camacho, relying on superior strength, led 9-2 in the second round, registering an early near-fall and several escapes on the way to victory.

“(Small’s) a very tough wrestler. He’s very good,” said Camacho, who placed fifth at 160 pounds at the 2A state tournament last season as a junior. “I knew I needed to come right at him. It’s my last year here. You have to leave everything on the mat. There’s no next year.”

Camacho’s momentum seemed to carry over to the 182-pound final as teammate Berg, also a senior, knocked off Yelm’s Tyler Losch, 7-3.

“The atmosphere here was great today,” Berg said. “It’s a totally different mindset at River Ridge now. We have a lot of pride when we step out on the mat. No one wants to finish second at their own tournament.”

North Thurston junior Dante Thomas improved to 17-2 by defeating Yelm’s A.J. Thaler (21-5) in the 145-pound finals, 4-1.

Thomas scored a two-point takedown in the first period and a two-point reversal in the third. His only miscue was surrendering a point because of a technical violation after locking his hands around Thaler’s waist in the second.

“It’s great to have these tournaments later in the season,” Thomas said. “You always have to wrestle tough, but the biggest difference between tournaments and duals is you’re wrestling three or four times a day at tournaments. It’s always good to get time on the mat this time of year. It certainly gets you ready for state.”

Lindbergh (182.5) finished third in the team standings. Black Hills, which had a pair of finalists in Josh Moloney (285) and Gage Keesee (138), was fourth (151).

Renton (132), River Ridge (115), North Thurston (79), Liberty (65), Shelton (55), Gig Harbor (44), Capital (30), Steilacoom (23) and Mount Rainier (20) rounded out the order of finish.

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